Ernesto Godinez attended his second graduation Saturday, but it was the first time he walked across the stage.
Godinez, a 22-year-old UF sociology and African American studies graduate, was the last person to be recognized at the makeup College of Liberal Arts and Sciences graduation ceremony. He did an enthusiastic step dance before collecting his diploma.
“Start to finish, I loved the energy from graduation,” Godinez said. “The people were excited, the administration was excited, so I felt like I had to go up and do something to finish it off.”
About 200 graduates attended the second CLAS commencement in the O’Connell Center on Saturday morning, said Todd Sanders, UF’s Director of Digital Communication and Social Media. The ceremony occurred almost two weeks after the original graduation in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium was cut short because of nearby lightning on May 5.
Between 200 to 300 graduates could not walk across the stage at the original ceremony because of the weather complications.
The makeup ceremony lasted about one hour and featured alumni speaker Joan Forrest, the president of Dawson Academy, a postgraduate educational and clinical research facility based in St. Petersburg, Florida. Forrest was supposed to speak at the previous ceremony.
Forrest spoke to the graduates about the value of having an inquisitive mind and how important all the connections they made during their time at UF would be later in life.
“It’s easy to lose touch as you spread out around Florida, the United States and the world,” Forrest said. “So make an effort to stay connected. Memories of your time here that seem so significant now will become even more meaningful as you get older.”
The graduates walked across the stage to collect their diplomas after speeches from Dean David Richardson and Associate Dean Joseph Spillane.
They also took photos with UF President Kent Fuchs outside the O’Connell Center after the commencement.
The makeup ceremony was met with a mixed response, with some students releasing statements and petitions in regard to the original CLAS ceremony.
One of the issues faced by many graduates was the difficulty of bringing family members back to Gainesville from out of town.
Brooke Abzug, a 22-year-old UF biology and psychology graduate, said that her brother and grandparents, who were in town for the original ceremony, could not attend this one.
“It was too bad they couldn’t all come back, but I’m happy my mom was able to come back with my cousin,” Abzug said.
For Godinez, even though his mom didn’t make the trip from Miami to watch him walk because of conflicts with work, he still felt blessed and humbled to graduate.
“I think back to coming here four years ago, and I did not think I would be in this position, but here I am today,” Godinez said. “It’s such a great experience to finally say I graduated from the University of Florida.”